Santa Fe College is investing in its degree programs, student services and community opportunities with a newly constructed building in downtown Gainesville.
The new 87,366-square-foot facility that will be Blount Hall is replacing the Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED), which once stood at the northwest corner of West University Avenue and North Sixth Street, Jay Anderson, the college’s communications manager, wrote in an email. The CIED was demolished in 2020 for the construction of Blount Hall to begin, Anderson wrote.
The $36.5 million building is scheduled to open to students in Spring 2022 and will expand the college’s downtown Blount Center, Anderson wrote.
Blount Hall will increase the CIED business incubation space, host business and information technology degree programs that will move from Santa Fe’s northwest campus and supply student services like academic advising, financial aid and admissions, according to a Santa Fe press release.
The new three-story facility will also provide more options for accessing opportunities in high-demand fields for the underserved communities in downtown Gainesville, Anderson wrote. The location provides more bus routes that may afford people with transportation issues to access a college education, Anderson wrote.
With the relocation of the programs, the northwest campus could have more space to develop new programs, and the location of Blount Hall next to Gainesville’s Innovation Hub will pair well with the IT programs, Anderson wrote. The Santa Fe College District Board of Trustees approved the new building in 2016, Anderson wrote.
“The campus is progressing nicely,” said Santa Fe College President Paul Broadie II during the Santa Fe College District Board of Trustees’ June 15 meeting.
The Florida Legislature, the governor and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration approved the project’s small-business incubator, Anderson wrote. The CIED Entrepreneur Incubator supports early-stage startups with services to increase community job creation and economic development, according to the Santa Fe website.
The new building is designed to be green and aims to receive LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for sustainability and resource-efficiency, said senior project manager Chris Trowell with Parrish McCall Constructors LLC. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, according to the U.S. Green Building Council website.
The project was originally set to be completed by Spring 2021, according to an October 2018 Santa Fe press release. During the design phase of the project, however, the projected completion date changed to Spring 2022 due to available funding and projected construction costs, Anderson wrote.
The lack of infrastructure for future development to support small businesses and train the local workforce in the previous one-story facility, which was originally a 1950s retail building, spurred the decision to construct the upcoming Blount Hall, Anderson wrote. The previous building was less than 11,000 square feet, which is about eight times smaller than the new one, Anderson wrote.
The construction of Blount Hall was funded over multiple years by more than $13 million from the state and $1 million from private donors, according to a college press release. The release states the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration granted $4.8 million to be allocated for the expansion of the CIED’s business incubation space.
“The way that a lot of the times the legislature funds projects like this is they know that you’re not going to build a project of this size and scope in one year, so they’ll fund it over multiple years,” said Andy Barnes, Santa Fe’s vice president of administrative affairs and chief financial officer.
Santa Fe received the final $3 million to complete the expansion project, announced Liam McClay, the college’s associate vice president of governmental affairs and facilities services, during the 2021 college budget presentation.
If Santa Fe has tuition revenue or state appropriations that are more than what is spent, those funds are directed toward deferred maintenance and the college’s facility needs, Barnes said. The Blount Center has benefited from the funds, he said.
The external portion of Blount Hall is set to be completed by the middle of September, said Trowell.
During the project, there have been some challenges, such as scarce materials due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the presence of old utilities, Trowell said. The expansion plans, however, anticipated potential issues, and there have been no delays in the project, Trowell said. There are no additional costs expected for the project, he said.
“This project has been designated by the District Board of Trustees as the college’s top priority,” Anderson wrote. “Moving high-demand programs like Business and IT can also lead to steady, stable jobs with salary and benefits packages that can provide for individuals and families in our community.”
Contact Antonia LaRocca at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @antoniarlarocca.
Antonia LaRocca is a staff writer at The Alligator.